The success of the Action Festival’s Slow Pitch Ball Tournament has been in large part due to its uniqueness. It may in fact be the only tournament in B.C. to be run the way it is and after almost 25 years of organizing the event, Allan and Dianne Mann have retired.
It all started for the Manns back in 1987 when they played ball as a family in the Summerland League.
“We had five children, so we had our own ball team basically, called the Ball Babies,” explained Allan. “We never won a game all year but we had a lot of fun.”
They decided to get more involved and even became executives of the league. In their desire to see a better league, they started to organize carded (certified) umpires. They also took courses and became umpires themselves.
It was in the early 1990s that they took over the organizing of the tournament held during Action Festival. In a number of years it grew from six teams to 72 teams.
“Our goal has always been to have a tournament that was attractive to all levels of ball players,” Allan said. “They could come to Summerland and enjoy the community, have fun and be competitive. We developed the whole tournament with that in mind.”
Another objective for the Manns was to keep the ball teams here all weekend, so they came up with a very unique format for the tournament.
Initially the tournament starts out with a round robin of four teams in each group. Between Friday night and Saturday they play three games. Based on the results of those three games, how many wins, how many losses, it puts each team into a division on Sunday. If there are 72 teams there are nine divisions and each division has eight teams.
“So now you’ll be in a division of eight teams of the same calibre,” Allan explained. “For instance, if the Ball Babies were in this tournament and never won a game, then on Sunday they would be in the lowest division.”
Since the trophies and prize packages are given out to the divisions, two of the eight teams will win a prize. There is a first and second prize as well as the most sportsmanlike, because that is the most important prize to the Manns.
“Basically you’ve got a 25 per cent chance of winning something,” said Allan.
A prize package is also given out to each team just for registering, before the tournament even begins.
The registration fees cover the prizes, the hiring of the umpires and the field maintenance during the weekend.
While one third of the teams playing are from Summerland, and one third from Penticton, the other third come from all over B.C. and have come from as far away as Calgary and even Australia.
“It’s been very successful,” said Allan. “We have teams that have been in it for the whole 25 years. They just keep coming back.”
“People were always scrambling to get in. We had a waiting list every year,” said Dianne.
In total 108 games are played on Friday and Saturday and another 61 games are played on Sunday, on Summerland’s 13 ball fields.
Scheduling the round robin games, getting all the scores in and then creating the schedule for Sunday’s games was very time consuming, so in the year 2000, Dianne developed a computer program to simplify the process.
The Manns both said that it would not be possible to run a tournament of this size if it were not for the support of the mayor and council, the recreation department and the volunteers and citizens of Summerland.
During all the years they organized the tournament Allan said they never received any complaints about how it was run.
“It’s been fun. Very satisfying, but it was time that we retired,” said Allan. “It’s a big commitment and it takes a lot of time, and it tied us up for a number of months.”
Allan has confidence that Summerland and the visiting ball teams can expect another successful slow pitch tournament this weekend.
“We got all of our formulas together and gave it to the new organizers. I think it’s going to run pretty good,” he said.
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